This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ubisoft Montreal's sandbox first-person shooter Far Cry 3, which reviewers describe as "the new apex predator of open-world shooters." Far Cry 3 currently earns a score of 91 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell scores Far Cry 3 at 10 out of 10. "There's often a lot of unremarkable space in open-world shooters," he admits, "but this vast, mountainous patch of fictional grass and rock in the middle of the Pacific has been created by people who believe that every inch is important, and who have refused to compromise or sculpt any part of it with less than an artist's attention to detail."
The climbing missions are particularly memorable, Bramwell notes: "There are 18 radio towers to scale as you make your way through the game, each of which highlights new objectives on your map and opens up new weapons to buy at local shops, and each tower is a unique first-person climbing challenge -- a peaceful ascent through a creaking spiral of steel that's fraying at the edges, revealing beautiful panoramic views before sending you back down to earth on a thrilling zipline."
"Fans of open-ended stealth are in some kind of heaven here," Bramwell continues. "Moving between the concealment of bushes and obscured sight-lines, watching the silhouettes of marked enemies move around on the other side of scenery, you can pick off the weaker ones as they become isolated, or maybe toss a stone to tempt them out of position."
Wild animals often play an unexpected role in the proceedings. "Yesterday I was stalking through one coastal outpost doing my usual stealth thing [...] when I realised I was taking it too easy and a nearby guard was going to spot me in a few seconds," Bramwell recalls. "But as I swore and fumbled for my silenced MP5, his silhouette straightened up and spun around, before he appeared to fall back onto the floor and start screaming. I had a look round the corner and discovered he was being mauled by leopards. Rescue leopards!"
"In the past, Far Cry's vision of a first-person shooter RPG where you explore, master and then control your environment has always been more seductive on paper than any of its developers have managed to deliver on disc," Bramwell writes. "Far Cry 3 changes all that. For me, this is the new apex predator of open-world shooters. Hunt it down as soon as you can."
Matt Bertz at Game Informer rates Far Cry 3 at 9 out of 10. "When a group of trust-fund kids unknowingly parachute onto an island inhabited by pirates, their sheltered, picture-perfect life is given a cruel dose of reality," he begins. "After escaping pirate captivity, Jason Brody vows to drop his silver spoon and pick up an AK-47. With the help of the island natives, he starts down the path of the warrior, taking over enemy encampments, learning to live off the land, and trying to find his friends before they are sold into slavery."
Bertz finds that Far Cry 3 provides a great amount of gameplay variety. "You can participate in races, compete in shooting challenges, hunt down wanted islanders, climb towers to reveal more of the map, or capture pirate camps to free the surrounding territory of their influence," he explains. "This ability to reclaim areas of the map is a welcome addition to the series, since the infinite enemy respawns of Far Cry 2 and unforgiving checkpoint system derailed the experience."
"Like the best open-world shooters, Far Cry 3 excels because it lets you approach objectives in any way you see fit," Bertz praises. "For some missions I would sneak in to the base, turn off the alarms, and stealth kill as many people as possible. In others I would use an overlook to snipe unsuspecting pirates with a suppressed long-range rifle. My favorite approach is introducing the chaos of the wildlife into the encampment. Driving Komodo dragons into the bases or letting caged tigers loose helps you even the odds."
The AI falters, however. "I only wish the AI posed more of a challenge," Bertz writes. "They too frequently pour into the same positions where their friends just died, and canít discern elevation changes. Rather than work their way up a cliff to attack after spotting me, for instance, they just stood at the base of the incline, making it extremely easy to take them all out with one well-placed grenade."
"After two remarkable but uneven offerings, Far Cry finally pulls everything together in the third installment," Bertz says. "The diverse open-world action, compelling story, and an alluring environment that begs exploration are all high water marks for the series. This is an island adventure all shooter fans should experience."
Cameron Lewis at Official Xbox Magazine gives Far Cry 3 an 8.5 out of 10. "Young Jason Brody starts out soft as white bread, but proves a quick study when it comes to driving bullets, knives, and arrows through enemy flesh," he notes. "It's a good thing, too, because Far Cry 3's long single-player campaign -- a little under 20 hours if you haul ass -- is filled with crazed firefights against alert sentries with assault rifles, fleet-footed lunatics with machetes, and plenty of other death-dealers."
"While you'll occasionally find yourself on linear tracks through caves and complexes, the majority of encounters lend themselves to a multitude of approaches," Lewis explains. "Sure, you can charge in guns blazing, but you'll get considerably more out of Far Cry 3 if you use your imagination and at least a little subtlety. Zoom in on a compound with your camera to mark and track foes, then silently stalk each of them with your knife. Snipe silently from afar, or sneak around placing chunks of C4 to detonate remotely when the time is right."
Far Cry 3's multiplayer modes fall short, however. "Co-op is particularly disappointing: instead of ferreting out cool new ways to kill or avoid altercations altogether, you're inevitably funneled into cluttered areas where ridiculous quantities of durable goons continuously stream in your general direction," Lewis writes. "Don't even bother if you can't get a full group of four together, unless you feel like banging your head against a brick wall of difficulty that doesn't scale down to accommodate smaller squads."
Lewis continues: "The wholesale murder of Team Deathmatch and a few variations on command-point control make competitive play both less irritating and more invigorating, but it remains almost as unsatisfying. Persistence unlocks weapons, modifications, and even simple battle cries that invigorate nearby teammates, but actual gameplay gets dragged down by disjointed maze-like maps and arbitrarily low health levels."
"Don't let an uninspired online experience keep you from Far Cry 3, though," Lewis assures. "You'll have to go it alone to see all its wild thrills, but those unique situations and over-the-top conflagrations are undoubtedly worth some lonely time spent tramping through the jungle."